Fibromyalgia Natural Treatments
of Trigger Point Therapy, Moist Heat and Gentle Stretching
The following steps are the
treatment tips that helped me to recover from fibromyalgia. I used to
be so sore all over that it hurt just to bend over to do the laundry or
turn my head to back the car of the driveway. I had to drop out of school
because it hurt to sit at a computer and type. With a lot of research,
a lot of books, the help of a good rheumatologist and physical therapist,
I'm in pretty good shape these days. I'll probably never be an Olympic
athlete or a winner on Survivor, but I'm at the point where I can
hold down a job, work at a computer for extended periods, do aerobics
videos, and best of all, not be in chronic pain day to day. For more on
my history with fibromyalgia see my section on diet.)
Listed below are the top treatment
tips that helped me to recover from my fibromyalgia and chronic pain problems.
My short term solutions
- Search out the trigger
point areas using a massage tool. An important point to note is
that where your body hurts the most may not be the source
of the pain. In my case my neck and jaw hurt the most, but my trigger
points were located under my arms pits and in my legs, especially my
- Moist heat is helpful
for relaxing muscles. Warm showers worked well for me.
- Apply counter pressure
to the trigger points to loosen them up. For myself and both of
my sons, who also have problems with tight muscles, this technique works
- Follow the counter pressure
session with a stretching / gentle yoga session to relax and lengthen
tight muscles. If yoga or any other exercise hurts, I found it is
better to skip it. Before I found a PT who really helped me, I had other
physical therapists tell me to "work through the pain". Those
were not the PTs who ever helped me - they just made me worse. Pain
is your body's way of telling you "that hurts - don't do that".
I found that pain during exercise just led to more pain.
- One great piece of advice
I did get from a physical therapist was that whatever you do today
will determine your pain level tomorrow. For me, I have found this
to be true. If I spend a day eating a lot of junk food, working on the
computer and not doing my fibromyalgia treatment routine, then I pay
for it by being sore the next day. However, if I spend a day eating
high magnesium, whole foods made from scratch combined with lots of
stretching, yoga and trigger point therapy, then the next day I feel
- How to tell if the steps
are working - I've experimented by just doing my treatment sessions
on only one leg and then taking a walk around the block. It's amazing
how much more relaxed the leg that has had the trigger point therapy
and stretches feels. It's no wonder that people with fibromyalgia also
often have Chronic Fatigue syndrome. When your muscles are really tight,
it takes much more effort to move them. I didn't realize just how tight
my muscles were most of my life until I found these ways to get them
- For longer term pain
solutions I had to balance my muscles better and improve my body
alignment. I also had to change my diet to provide my body with more
of the nutrients responsible for relaxing muscles after a contraction.
Without the right biochemical triggers, contracted muscles are unable
to relax and will stay in a contracted state for a very long time.
My longer term solutions
1. To prevent
extra tension in my hands, I bought a variety of labor saving devices
to help let the muscles in my hands and upper body relax:
2. I made many
changes in my home office, since I knew sitting at the PC was a big source
of tension in my body. I
made my office set up more ergonomically correct. My physical therapist
helped me redesign my workstation to minimize muscle strain on my neck and
hands. It took me awhile to find just the right setup. There are hundreds,
if not thousands or tens of thousands of books on how to ergonomically set
up your office, and the advice in each book is different. The advice that
worked for me is listed below:
- I bought extra sharp
knives for the kitchen so I didn't have to press down so hard when
cutting produce and meat. I know it doesn't sound like it would make
much of a difference, but if each little change you make decreases tension
in you hands by just 3 - 5%, then over time ten or so small changes
can add up to a big reduction in pain over the course of the day. I
found when my hands were tight, the tension in them would travel up
my arm, causing pain in my arm, neck and shoulders.
- I bought precut fresh
veggies or frozen veggies from the grocery store. It's tempting
to eat out a lot when it hurts to cook, but magnesium rich, nutrient
dense whole foods are much better for muscle relaxation than eating
a lot of highly salted, processed foods. I think fresh vegetables, either
made into soup or lightly steamed are best, but if your hands are too
sore to chop them up, then fresh or precut are the next best option.
(To read more about my history of fibromyalgia, see the first section
of my best foods for fibromyalgia
- I bought a shredder for
the office. It may sound strange, but I noticed that my hands would
get sore even from something as minor as ripping up old receipts and
I bought my shredder, I used to tear old bills and financial statements
up by hand. No wonder my hands got sore.
- I bought a hospital style
bed table that slides over a chair or bed to use for reading. I
either held the pages of books open with rubber bands or used a book
holder. Holding books up to read was a big tension inducer for me in
my hands, neck and shoulders.
bought a table like this for at home, so I could rest my books
on them and not have to grip them so tight.
- I avoided anything that
involved detailed work with my hands - sewing, embroidery, too much
computer work, etc.
- I tried expensive chairs
on a trial basis, and for the money it just didn't seem to make much
of a difference. It was easier and cheaper just to take a basic chair
from a place like Office Depot and buy inexpensive seat cushions and
pads as needed to shape it to support my body correctly.
- Though I did spend a lot
of money on different chairs, pillows, splints, heat packs, etc., for
my fibromyalgia and other aches and pains, in the end the only products
that were really effective for me were some relatively inexpensive massage
tools. It helps to have massage tools when doing the trigger point therapy
to keep from getting repetitive strain injuries in your hands.
- I bought a keyboard tray
so when I typed on my PC, my arms were at right angles. Prior to that
I had to reach upwards to type with the keyboard sitting on the desk.
It made a huge difference having the keyboard lower. Our other office
desk doesn't have a keyboard tray, and I can really tell the difference
in my neck and shoulder muscles after using that desk and PC for even
- I bought a stand for
my monitor so could look at the PC screen at eye level instead of
downward. When I was looking downward all day, over time it made my
neck muscles contracted in the front and stretched out in the back causing
a muscle imbalance.
- One small change that had
big benefits for me was to switch the type of mouse I had on the computer.
I went from one with a track ball to an optical scanner mouse.
This made a tremendous difference in shoulder and arm pain. Those thousands
of little repetitive motions during the day really added up to much
less pain for me when my mouse was easier to glide around much more.
My husband said he could not tell the difference, but I could tell it
by decreased pain in my arm and neck after spending any time on the
- I got a wedge type seat
cushion that helped me to sit more upright instead of slouching.
Again, this is a small change, but it really helps to keep my front
torso muscles from shortening by forcing me to sit in a more upright
- I tried voice recognition
software for the PC, but it would often take minutes just to get a single
sentence typed correctly. I found it more productive to just stay
on the computer for short periods of time, and then do a lot of stretching
and trigger pint therapy afterward.
3. I avoided anything with
a repetitive motion like most exercise equipment or tasks that required
a stationary position.
- One of the factors that
I think got me into bad shape in the first place was a cross country
ski machine. I got in great shape from using it, so it was hard to give
it up. But in the end I realized that doing the same motions over and
over again were just not for me.
ski machine did two things for me: 1) I lost weight and wore a
size 6 for the first time in my life since grade school, and 2)
it helped me develop fibromyalgia so bad I could hardly move.
- I avoided long trips in
the car. Another factor that got me into bad shape was driving way too
much. When my kids were little and just starting to out grow naps, yet
still needed them, I would drive them around in the car in their car
seats until they fell asleep. I hindsight, I was wasting gas and not
doing my body any favors.
- For exercise I focused on
things I could do that use different muscles group and didn't tighten
anything up too much such as dancing, yoga, and walking (on flat ground).
I avoided anything that tightened my muscles like weight lifting, walking
up strenuous hills, Pilates, etc.
Yin yoga was especially good for me because it focuses more on relaxing
muscles than the other types of yoga. Even Tai Chi was hard for me to
do initially, as it tightened up some of my already-too-tight muscles.
- Instead of doing any set
exercise videos, I just do my own dancing so I can avoid the moves that
I know are too strenuous for me. To do this I bought a bunch of videos
on iTunes and then hooked my Ipod up to our big screen TV so I can watch
the videos on there and dance along. Plus this way I can dance to the
bands I like, inlcuding Muse and Nickelback, instead of the less known,
royalty inexpensive songs in the exercise videos.
bought a cable to hook my iPod to my TV so I can dance to my favorite
music videos for exercise.
4. I think fairly firm mattresses
are best. We bought a new mattress with a "pillow top" and it
does seem to make my aches and pains worse than the firmer one we used
to have. Part of the problem is that I like to sleep on my side. The firmer
mattress would keep my body straighter as I slept. With the soft mattress,
my hips sink into the top and, over eight hours of sleep they tend to
get out of alignment with my legs and shoulders. I have noticed that I
have more pains in my hips from sleeping on this softer mattress. I don't
have a good short term solution except to rotate the mattress as much
as possible and to do yoga counter stretches each day to bring my hips
back into proper alignment.